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Reviving Appetite: How to Get a Sick Dog to Eat and Overcome Illness (2024)

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how to get a sick dog to eatWhen your sick dog refuses to eat, don’t lose hope!

Tempting them with small portions of tasty yet safe treats can revive their appetite. Offer variety like plain cooked chicken or low-sodium broth.

Heating up their regular food and adding warm water or low-sodium broth can make it more palatable.

Dehydration often accompanies illness, so ensuring proper hydration is key.

If your pup’s condition doesn’t improve within 24 hours, it’s wise to consult your vet.

With some perseverance and the right approach, you can help get a sick dog to eat and on the mend.

Continue reading for more tips on overcoming this concerning hurdle.

Key Takeaways

  • When a pup’s feeling pooped and won’t chow down, it’s like a storm cloud rolled in over mealtime. But don’t fret, there are tasty tricks to tempt that wagging tail back to the bowl! A sprinkle of warm broth, a spoonful of peanut butter, or a bite of chicken could be just the treat to get them eating like a champ again.
  • Keep an eagle eye out for signs something more serious is brewing, like vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy. Those red flags say it’s time to call in reinforcements from your trusty vet to get to the bottom of things and get your furry pal feeling shipshape again.
  • Dehydration is kryptonite for a sick pup, so make sure they’re lapping up plenty of water or broth. A dry doggy is a cranky doggy, and staying hydrated is the key to getting that appetite fired back up. Pop in some ice cubes or try a doggy water fountain to keep things fresh and inviting.
  • Sometimes the best medicine is a little patience and TLC. If it’s just a mild case of the blahs, give your pooch a day or two to get their groove back. Keep offering their favorite snacks and see if that tail starts wagging again on its own. But if things don’t turn around, don’t wait to get your vet’s expert opinion on getting that appetite revived.

How to Get a Sick Dog to Eat?

To get a sick dog to eat, tempt them with strong-smelling treats or warm broth over their regular food. If their appetite doesn’t improve within a day or two, consult your veterinarian as lack of eating can lead to dangerous dehydration and malnutrition.

Identify the Cause

Identify the Cause
When your dog loses their appetite, it’s important to identify the underlying cause.

Sometimes, it’s simply an emotional response to changes or losses, like mourning the death of a companion. However, it could also indicate an illness, infection, disease, or recovery period after surgery.

Underlying conditions can manifest through appetite loss, requiring veterinary attention. Before attempting home remedies, consult your vet, especially if lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss accompanies the lack of appetite.

Ruling out serious issues first guarantees you address the root cause rather than just the symptoms. With your vet’s guidance and thorough evaluation, you can revive your furry friend’s appetite safely and effectively.

Signs to Watch For

Signs to Watch For
If your dog starts exhibiting signs like vomiting, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea, or gagging, it’s crucial to monitor them closely. These symptoms could indicate an underlying condition that’s causing your pup’s loss of appetite, and taking note of their severity and frequency will help your vet provide an accurate diagnosis.


Vomiting is another concerning sign that merits a call to your vet. It could signal:

  1. Ingestion of a toxic substance
  2. Gastrointestinal obstruction
  3. Pancreatitis
  4. Parvovirus or other viral illness

Monitor frequency, and note if vomit contains blood or foreign objects. While occasional vomiting may pass, persistent vomiting requires veterinary attention to prevent dehydration and identify the underlying cause.


If lethargy accompanies your dog’s loss of appetite, it’s a major red flag. Sickness saps their energy reserves, making even basic activities feel exhausting.

Concern Severity Action
Mild Lethargy Low Monitor
Moderate Lethargy Medium Vet Visit
Severe Lethargy High Urgent Vet Care

Don’t ignore sustained lethargy – it could signal a serious underlying condition.

Weight Loss

You’ll want to monitor your dog’s weight closely if their appetite is poor. Rapid weight loss can signal underlying issues like nutritional deficiencies, dental problems, or organ disease. Check for loss of muscle mass and prominent bones. Track their weight weekly and consult your vet if they drop more than 10%.


Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so watch for dry gums. It often stems from dietary changes or underlying issues. Don’t hesitate to consult your vet, especially if lethargy or vomiting accompany it. Consider switching to a bland diet like boiled chicken and rice, and offer bone broth for hydration until it resolves.


If your dog is gagging, it could be a sign that something is causing discomfort or blockage in their throat. Be on the lookout for:

  1. Repeated gagging or dry heaving
  2. Excessive drooling or lip licking
  3. Pawing at the mouth
  4. Refusal to eat or drink

Gagging can indicate a serious issue, so it’s best to contact your vet right away if it persists.

When to Contact a Vet

When to Contact a Vet
While home remedies can help in some cases, you’ll want to contact your vet promptly if your dog’s lack of appetite persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms.

Different causes, like illness or injury, require professional care. Vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and visible weight loss are red flags that shouldn’t be ignored.

Emotional impacts like the death of a companion can also affect appetite.

In emergency situations, like suspected poisoning from human medication, macadamia nuts, baking powder, or baking soda, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Your vet can properly diagnose the underlying issue and provide appropriate treatment to revive your pup’s appetite.

Waiting It Out

Waiting It Out
If your dog’s loss of appetite is due to a minor illness or stress, sometimes the best approach is to wait it out.

Give your pup some time—usually a day or two—to see if their appetite returns on its own. During this waiting period, closely monitor for other concerning symptoms like vomiting or lethargy.

Offering broth or heating up their regular food can also help tempt their appetite while you’re being patient. However, if there’s no improvement within a reasonable timeframe, their lack of eating could signal an underlying cause that requires veterinary attention.

Tempting With Treats

Tempting With Treats
If your pup is still refusing food, try tempting them with a treat. Offer a small portion of something tasty and enticing, like:

  1. Pieces of cooked chicken or turkey
  2. A spoonful of peanut butter or canned pumpkin
  3. Low-sodium deli meat or fish
  4. Their favorite store-bought treats

Stick to foods you know are safe for dogs and avoid grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions, or anything with xylitol. The goal is to spark their appetite with a preferred flavor and texture. Use treats as a reward and motivation, but don’t overdo it – a little encouragement can go a long way.

Switching Food Brands

Switching Food Brands
If your dog isn’t interested in their regular food, consider switching brands. Dogs can develop preferences for certain textures or ingredients, so a new formula could tempt them.

Look for high-quality options with novel proteins and limited ingredients if your pup has food allergies. Check reviews and consult your vet to find reputable brands that provide complete nutrition.

Making the change gradually by mixing the new food with the old can also help ease the process.

Heating Up Food

Heating Up Food
You may find that gently heating your dog’s food can make a big difference in stimulating their appetite.

The warmer temperature enhances the aroma, making the food more appealing to their sensitive sense of smell. It can also improve digestibility and nutrient absorption.

Just be careful not to overheat or burn the food. Simply warm it to around body temperature—you should be able to comfortably hold the bowl.

The inviting smells and texture changes can pique interest, encouraging your pup to dig in with renewed gusto.

Adding Broth or Gravy

Adding Broth or Gravy
Warming up your dog’s food is a fantastic way to make it more appealing. But adding broth or gravy takes it to the next level.

These savory liquids not only make the meal smell irresistible but also enhance flavor and nutrient absorption. Chicken or bone broth provides hydration and electrolytes, while the aroma stimulates appetite. Gravy adds moisture and flavor that can tempt even the pickiest eaters.

For an extra nutrient boost, make your own broth with vegetables and lean proteins. Just be mindful of sodium content if using store-bought varieties.

A little broth or gravy can work wonders for reviving interest in food.

Hydration is Key

Hydration is Key
Dehydration is a major concern when your dog is sick and refusing to eat or drink. Signs like panting, lethargy, dry gums, and loss of skin elasticity indicate your pup needs hydration; encourage water intake by offering ice cubes, Pedialyte, or adding ice to the water bowl.

Signs of Dehydration

You’ll want to watch for signs your pup is dehydrated, like a dry mouth, sunken eyes, decreased urination, fast breathing, and a dull coat. Dehydration can exacerbate appetite loss, lethargy and other illness symptoms, so rehydrating is essential for recovery. Stay vigilant for these telltale signs of dehydration when nursing your sick dog.

Encouraging Water Intake

You’ll want to encourage water intake by placing ice cubes in your dog’s water bowl, offering Pedialyte, or even adding ice to their water to entice them. Watch for signs of dehydration like dry gums and lethargy. Here are some tips to keep your pup hydrated:

  • Invest in a doggy water fountain
  • Swap out fresh, cool water frequently
  • Try bone broth or chicken broth
  • Use a shallow dish for easy access
  • Praise and reward drinking efforts

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What if my dog is sick and won’t eat?

Like a dog with its tail between its legs, if your pup is under the weather and refusing food, don’t fret. Tempt them with appetizing wet food, broth, or shredded chicken – their appetite will soon perk up.

What can one do if they are sick from bad food?

If you’ve gotten sick from bad food, rehydrate with small sips of water or electrolyte drinks. Eat bland, easy-to-digest foods like bananas, rice, or toast until symptoms subside. See a doctor if symptoms worsen or don’t improve within 24-48 hours.

How can I Make my Dog Eat better?

Try heating your dog’s regular food, adding low-sodium broth or shredded chicken to make it more appetizing. Small, frequent meals work best. Monitor for dehydration and consult your vet if issues persist.

Why does my dog refuse food if he is sick?

Nearly 1 in 5 dogs refuse food when ill. Your pup may lose interest due to nausea, pain, or lack of smell/taste. Offer wet foods with appetizing smells like chicken broth to entice him. If vomiting persists, seek vet care promptly.

How long can a dog go without eating?

Most healthy dogs can go 3-5 days without food, but only 2 days without water. Monitor a sick dog closely and provide hydration if they refuse food for more than 48 hours.

What medications can stimulate a dogs appetite?

Some medications that can stimulate a dog’s appetite are cyproheptadine, mirtazapine, and Carafate. However, always consult your vet before giving any medication.

Are there any supplements to improve appetite?

Yes, you can try appetite stimulants like Entyce or Mirtazapine prescribed by your vet. Supplements with B vitamins, omega fatty acids, and digestive enzymes may also boost appetite in sick dogs.

Should a dogs diet be adjusted post-illness?

Definitely, dog dietary demands differ drastically post-illness. Divinely delectable dishes designed delicately during downtime deliver dogs dependable, delicious decompression. Diligently discern dog digestion desires, determining delectable delicacies.

Are there specific recipes for homemade dog food?

Try simple recipes like boiled chicken and rice, scrambled eggs, or pureed vegetables. Homemade dog food provides essential nutrients while remaining gentle on sensitive stomachs.


Like a blooming garden, your perseverance and tender care can revive your sick dog’s appetite.

Be patient, try varied approaches like warming food or adding broth, and make sure your dog is hydrated.

If their condition doesn’t improve within 24 hours, consult your veterinarian.

With determination and the right techniques to get a sick dog to eat, your furry friend will soon regain their zest for life.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief with a team of qualified veterinarians, their goal? Simple. Break the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your furry four-legged friends.